Covid 19, no doubt, affected all sections of people and women were the worst hit. Joining the other countries, India also saw its women folk suffering the worst, with many hurdles to overcome the situation. But there is hope with a new study pointing out that rise of the gig economy in the wake of COVID-19 has potential to boost women’s employment in the formal sector.
The new study The Impact of COVID-19 and Industry 4.0 on Future of Work for Women , undertaken jointly by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), said that adoption of new technologies could create better opportunities for women. Meanwhile, it noted that re-skilling would be crucial to expand opportunities for women in the formal sector.
The UNDP and the FICCI conducted a survey of 150 firms in the formal sector to understand the implications of new technologies for the future of work and emerging challenges and opportunities for women.
In the survey, they found that 57 per cent of the respondent agreed that gig economy would expand and boost women’s employment as it is based on flexible, temporary, or freelance jobs, often involving connecting with clients or customers through an online platform. It also shows that Gig economy has the potential to absorb more women and increase their participation in the workforce.
The authors of the study said that a boost in use of digital technology and increased acceptance of virtual working for sales and distribution jobs, could open opportunities for women to enter fields where interactions are managed through apps and phone calls.
UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in India Nadia Rasheed pointed out that study gave the hope for a better future with more employment opportunities for women. “However, concerted efforts are needed to understand how new technologies are impacting specific industries and to address challenges facing women in entering or remaining in the workplace”, she said.
The survey indicates some key sectors that are likely to see an increase in women’s employment. Health and pharmaceuticals (59 per cent), electrical and electronics (44 per cent) and Fast Moving Consumer Goods industry (41 percent) are the areas. IT also mentioned that women’s employment in finance and accounting divisions might slightly change due to adoption of new technology.
In the survey, about 73 per cent opined that re-skilling, especially in the formal sector, is likely to play a crucial part in shaping the work of tomorrow.
The study also notes that some labour laws and regulations are required in the changing world of work to safeguard the interest of both employers and employees.
WORK FROM HOME
The UNDP and FICCI said that Work From Home (WFH) or remote working would be the ‘new normal’ with advanced technologies such as digital information, robotization, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
KEY FINDINGS OF THE STUDY
Impact on business due to COVID-19:
- 34 per cent of the heads of the firms surveyed said that business had decreased in comparison to the pre-COVID-19 scenario.
- 44 per cent said that while business had decreased during lockdown, it was back on track post the lockdown.
- Only 10% said that the pandemic had not had an impact on their business.
Adjustments made to cope with the pandemic:
- 69 per cent stated that they had to adjust their investment plans during the lockdown period.
- 64 per cent said that they had made adjustments to the hiring strategy and employment patterns
- 59 per cent and 53 per cent of the employers respectively made adjustments in terms of employment benefits and executive compensation strategies.
- Only 24 per cent had made alterations in dividends during the lockdown.
Impact of COVID-19 on employment by gender and sector:
- 29 per cent agreed that employment opportunities decreased for both men and women.
- 60 per cent said that there was no change in the employment of men in the formal sector in the lockdown.
- 33 per cent of the corporate firms said that there was no change in women’s employment in the formal sector.
- 67 per cent agreed that women’s employment in the manufacturing sector was more adversely impacted than women’s employment in the service sector. Only 25.33% disagreed with this, and the remaining 38% remain inconclusive in their response.
Work from home a new normal in the world of work:
- 27 per cent of the heads of the firms surveyed in the service sector have adopted WFH, while only 41.30 per cent of the surveyed firms in the manufacturing sector adopted WFH.
- Of the total surveyed firms, only 6.73 per cent and 21.74 per cent firms in the service and manufacturing sectors respectively were not able to adopt WFH.
Boost in women’s employment post COVID-19
- Around 38 per cent of the heads of the firms surveyed agreed that WFH would boost women’s employment.
- Only 19 per cent of the surveyed firms disagreed that WFH would boost women’s employment in the post-pandemic scenario. The remaining 43% surveyed firms remain inconclusive.
Increased importance of reskilling in the world of work
- 73 per cent of the heads of the firms surveyed agreed that 50 per cent of the jobs in India will require skilling and reskilling.
- Only five per cent did not agree with this. The remaining 22 per cent remain inconclusive.
- Rise in gig work boost women’s employment a new normal in the world of work
- 57 per cent of the heads of surveyed firms felt that the advent of the gig economy would boost women’s employment.
- Only 4 per cent said that it would not boost women’s employment. The remaining 39 per cent of the heads of firms surveyed remained inconclusive.
Earlier adoption of technology could have a smaller impact on the business:
- 37 per cent acknowledged that an earlier adoption of new technologies in their businesses would have lessened the impact of COVID-19 on their activities.
- Around 23 per cent did not agree that an earlier adoption of new technologies would have led to a smaller impact on business during the pandemic.
- The remaining 40% remain inconclusive
Popular disruptive technologies being adopted in Indian business:
- 60 per cent adopted automation in their activities.
- Around 23 per cent used artificial intelligence in the daily operational work of their organization.
- Eight per cent and nine per cent respectively adopted robotization and 3D printing respectively in their businesses.
COVID-19 as a catalyst for Indian employers to adopt new technologies in their business:
- 33 per cent agreed that COVID-19 had acted as a catalyst for Indian employers to adopt new technologies in their businesses.
- 33 per cent did not consider COVID-19 as a catalyst for Indian employers to adopt new technologies in their businesses.
Adoption of new technology cause job polarisation:
- 62 per cent felt that new technologies would create a favourable impact on the jobs of high-skilled women workers,
- 30 per cent felt new technologies would create no impact on the jobs of high-skilled women workers and only 8 per cent thought that new technologies would create an adverse impact on the jobs of high-skilled women workers.
Impact of adoption of new technology on women’s employment in different industries in India
- Top three industries in the manufacturing sector where new technologies would increase women’s employment are health and pharma, electrical and electronics, and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG).
- Top three industries where women’s employment would decrease because of new technology are automobiles/tyres, construction and infrastructure, and textiles.
- Top three industries in the service sector where new technologies would increase women’s employment are health services, informative technology (IT) and BFSI.